Millions of people from Texas to New York are experiencing their earliest spring in decades as temperatures remain well above historical averages — a pattern that AccuWeather predicted a day before Punxsutawney Phil called for six more weeks of winter.
This week alone, dozens of daily record highs were shattered from the south-central to southeastern and mid-Atlantic United States as unusually warm weather surged across all three regions. Blistering temperatures gripped places in the Southeast, including Jacksonville, Florida, which hit a record high of 88 degrees Fahrenheit on Thursday. That broke the old record of 85 F set in 1962.
Some locations even set new record high temperatures for all of meteorological winter (Dec. 1-Feb. 28), including Raleigh, North Carolina, which soared to 85 F on Thursday, surpassing the old record of 84 F set on Feb. 26, 1977. Nashville, Tennessee, also recorded a high of 85 F on Thursday, which set a new monthly and meteorological winter record. The old record was 84 F set on Feb. 13, 1962.
The record temperatures have helped plants to start budding and flowering weeks ahead of schedule, including bluebonnets in Austin, Texas, a city that is experiencing its earliest spring in 40 years.
As of Feb. 22, Austin was experiencing its ninth warmest start to the year on record based on maximum temperature. The city typically averages a high of 64 degrees through Feb. 22, but this year has averaged 67.4 degrees, the highest since the record of 70.8 degrees was set in 2017.
Typically during this time of year, leaves would have just started growing on trees in Norfolk, Virginia, based on the 30-year average from the USA National Phenology Network. But this year, the sprouting of new leaves has already spread north to Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.
In Washington, D.C., cherry blossoms are beginning to bud. An indicator tree for the city’s cherry blossoms was already undergoing the first of six stages in bud development a few weeks earlier than usual, according to the National Park Service (NPS).
The early taste of spring has even expanded as far north as New York City, where leaves are appearing a remarkable 32 days earlier than what is typically seen. Temperatures across the Big Apple have been significantly above average since the start of 2023, with high temperatures reaching up to 20 degrees above the historical average on some days in February. All four major weather stations in New York City are recording the warmest year-to-date on record, with New York Central Park observing average temperatures nearly 10 degrees above the historical average.
Other cities across the country have been experiencing record warmth to start the year, including Pensacola, Florida, and Atlanta, Georgia, where temperatures through Feb. 22 have been among the top five warmest starts to the year on record. Atlanta observed a temperature of 81 degrees on Feb. 22 — the highest temperature ever recorded for the city during meteorological winter, which runs from Dec. 1 to the last day of February. (READ MORE)